Must Read: Getting Pregnant When You Have Ulcerative Colitis

by Tracy Davenport, Ph.D. Health Writer

The majority of people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are affected during their peak reproductive years, according to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation (CCF). Therefore, it’s natural to be concerned about how your ulcerative colitis (UC) might impact you or your partner if you are planning to become pregnant. Read ahead for eight things you should consider if you are ready to grow your family.

Mother and young daughter on laptop.

Your child may inherit your UC

Family history is the strongest predictor for developing irritable bowel disease, according to the CCF. If you have IBD, the risks of your children developing the disease are 2 – 13 times higher than in the general population. If you and your partner both have IBD, your children have an estimated 36 percent risk of developing IBD in their lifetime.

Smiling pregnant woman with her doctor.

Fertility rates are unaffected for women with UC in remission

According to the CCF, women with UC in remission can become pregnant as easily as other women of the same age. However, women with active disease may have more difficulty becoming pregnant. And, women who have had surgery in the pelvis may have significantly lower fertility rates. In one study, UC individuals had a 13 percent infertility rate before surgery versus a 39 percent infertility rate after surgery.

Father holding infant.

Fertility rates are the same for men with UC

If you are a man with IBD, your fertility will be similar to that of the general population. However, certain medications can affect sperm count and quality. Other factors such as active inflammation, poor nutrition, alcohol use, smoking, and surgery may cause infertility in men with UC.

Woman breaking a cigarette, smoking cessation concept.

Stop smoking before trying to conceive

For both men and women, tobacco use is not a good idea. Smoking impairs fertilization. The toxins from cigarette smoke damage sperm in men. Women also should quit smoking before trying to become pregnant. In at least one study, compared with nonsmokers, both current and past smokers had reduced ovarian function.

Woman holding glass of milk.

Nutrition is important

It can be difficult to maintain a healthy diet with UC. However, if you are thinking about having a baby, it is important that your diet is as nutrient-rich as possible. Certain additions to your diet may be necessary. For example, folic acid supplementation is recommended for all pregnant women. Calcium and vitamin D are also important during pregnancy. Certain medications can interfere with nutrient absorption. Talking to your doctor about your diet may be an important step before conception.

Smiling, healthy pregnant couple.

UC symptoms may improve during pregnancy

The risk of a flare-up is no greater during pregnancy than in any other year of a woman’s life, according to a 2008 article in the World Journal of Gastroenterology. If conception happens when the disease is active, the symptoms will settle in about one-third of women with UC. One-quarter of those with active IBD during pregnancy will experience chronically active disease throughout the pregnancy. It is advised that conception take place when UC is in remission if possible.

Doctor discussing medical information with patient.

Only change your medications with doctor's orders

No one likes to take more medicine than needed. This is especially true if you are trying to get pregnant. Intuitively, it might seem like a good idea to come off of your UC medication before you try to conceive. However, since active disease has been associated with prematurity and low birth weight, it is important that you work with your doctor to determine what medications you should remain on during your pregnancy.

Couple laughing while resting on a hike near a mountain and lake.

Each person's UC is different

The studies that are currently available on fertility and UC are extremely small. Not only does UC vary from person to person, but the health and body chemistry of two people need to be considered when you are considering pregnancy. Learn the facts related to UC and fertility now to better prepare yourself; knowing your own body and staying in close contact with your medical provider during this exciting time is paramount.

Tracy Davenport, Ph.D.
Meet Our Writer
Tracy Davenport, Ph.D.

Davenport is the founder of Using the latest scientific research, she helps people live their healthiest lives via one-on-one coaching, corporate talks, and sharing the more than 1,000 health-related articles she's authored.